Member Highlight September 2022

This month we meet Isabel Romariz.
(by Joy Davenport)

Isabel was born in Mozambique of Portuguese parents and lived there until the war broke out in 1974, at which time her family moved to South Africa. The move propelled her to learn English at age nine, and it was beneficial that her father had learned to speak English in the Army. She started school in Johannesburg and noted that there were many other Portuguese children from Mozambique in the same situation, so it didn’t feel so foreign.

Isabel’s father was a famous race car driver who loved to explore. She has fond memories of her father taking the family in a caravan to explore South Africa. She got to know the country very well and still has a sense of adventure with travel. When she was 15 years old, tragedy struck when her father was killed in an automobile accident where he was a passenger in a colleague’s car.

Always an artsy child, after her studies, Isabel went to work for an interior design company that did primarily commercial design, and later worked for an advertising company as a Client Liaison Officer. It was while working here that she met her husband. It wasn’t long after that they moved to Port Elizabeth, South Africa where her first daughter was born. After three years, her husband’s career took them back to Johannesburg where they welcomed their second daughter.

During her marriage, she and her husband bought fixer upper houses and remodelled them for resale. For Isabel this was not only profitable, but a perfect outlet for her artistic talents. She loved the satisfaction of taking a run-down house and returning beauty and life to it. Her husband’s next job transfer led them to Durban, South Africa, which she found to be a lovely, family-oriented place to raise her daughters. She and her husband continued their home buying and selling in Durban; it was during this time (1999) that she started her own interior design business. In the beginning she was her own seamstress for her design projects, but as her business took off, and life got really hectic, she had to acquire a team of seamstresses and installers.

During this time, she was also a member of the governing body at her children’s school doing fundraising projects as well as juggling the extra curricular activities of her daughters.

When asked if she planned to return to her home country, she stated that in 1990, she was a member of Young Entrepreneurs and Professionals and the organization was looking for former Mozambicans to move back to open businesses and help improve the country. She went back with the group for a brief visit but decided that the timing wasn’t right for her to take that offer.

In 2005 she had an emotional return to Mozambique, and although the maps and street names had changed, she found the house she lived in before 1974, her school, and visited her grandparent’s farm where she spent much of her early years.

2020 was a momentous year for many people. For Isabel 2020 brought much personal introspection; she got divorced after 30 years of marriage, sold her home as well as most of her belongings, and as her grown daughters moved to the UK, Isabel moved to Portugal.

The IWP has been a huge part of Isabel’s life since moving here. She is passionate about not only its existence, but what the IWP offers women who are here from so many different places and cultures. Through the activities and social functions she has met many wonderful women and made amazing friends. The camaraderie with other IWP women has truly enriched her life. Isabel enjoys hiking, traveling, watching movies, and especially scrap-booking.